Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Mail That Keeps Coming and the Photos I Have Never Seen Before

Recently I read an article by a man whose son died, in which he wrote about how his son lived on in the world of junk mail. His son was dead, but mail continued to arrive for him, months later. He said he saved the mail, as though his son might somehow be coming back for it.

I understood exactly how he felt and what he did. Even over six years after Leif's death we still get mail addressed to him, although the amount of it is lessening. The latest piece was another ad from Mazda, offering him a great deal on a new car.

I don't save the junk mail, and personal mail was never really an issue, since Leif had little use for paper correspondence, preferring to do everything he could online. After he died, I had plenty of mail about him, taking care of his affairs, but only junk mail addressed to him, and I didn't keep any of that.

It still arrives, as though he were still here to receive it. I wonder how long these mailing lists go on and on when there is no response.

It used to hurt when I saw his name on an envelope. It was yet another reminder that my son was no longer with us. Now, it's more an annoyance that they won't quit.

There's still so much of him everywhere around us, so much of the way we live that we owe in some measure to him. I sit here at my computer desk, which he and his dad put together for me, using a computer that was once his.

A couple of days ago as I was driving home, I was thinking that I would never see a new photo of Leif, or have a new story about his life to tell, unless someone who knew him came forward with them, and then, just a day later, someone did.

My mother has been an avid photographer most of her life. Her vision is no longer good enough to use her camera, and she is confined to a wheelchair, but last week she started going through her thousands and thousands of slides. I brought home a couple of the big boxes of them to give her a start. There was a big plastic box labeled "family" and some dates that went through 1993. I decided to peek inside and found a few that she took when we lived in Puerto Rico . . . and there were some slides of Leif I had never seen before. Mom only printed the very best of the photos she took, so I'm sure there are many that none of us have ever seen. I won't know whether these are good shots of Leif until I scan them, but I will treasure any new photos of him I get.

The one with this blog was one of Leif's many selfies. It was taken March 11, 2008 in his apartment, less than a month before he died. I wonder about his photography. When he was in middle school and high school, he photographed architecture and objects. When he was in college and the army, he didn't take many photos, probably because of the expense in those days when he had to buy 35mm film and pay to have it processed, but he did take some of his wife Nikko and their friends, and of his deployment to Bosnia. During that period, he didn't take selfies. But when he returned home from the army, single, he seemed to only take photos of his vehicles and himself, the only real exception being the woman he wanted to marry. After she left him, it was only vehicles and selfies.

At the time he took this picture, he was in love again, and he had photos of her, but he hadn't taken them. He asked for a camera for his last birthday, but never used it for anything but his vehicles. It seems to me that is a sign of how disconnected he was from other people. To my knowledge, he never took a photo of us, his parents, or of his brother's family when they were here to visit, except some silly cell phone videos with his nieces.

Not everyone is an avid photographer, so not taking pictures in and of itself isn't so strange, but to take ONLY the ones he did seems telling to me, a sad comment that he felt no need to take photos of people in his life, but did take photos of himself. Why?  

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Even in Istanbul - Memories of a Young Boy and Cars

If I had taken Leif to Istanbul when he was any age from three to twelve, or any other city in the world, and he had seen this display, we would not have been able to move him from the spot. How he loved little metal car models. He had a HUGE collection of Matchbox cars, which he loved to examine, play with, and compare. As an adult, he still had his metal black Lamborghini model.

I took this picture of the outside display at a store behind the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. I couldn't help but think of him and wish he'd been there so I could tease him a bit about it . . . and watching him pick up various cars and start his usual long dissertations about their various merits.

I can picture him as a child surrounded on the floor by all his cars . . . and planes . . . and ships . . . and space ships. I remember his Hot Wheels sets and speedways. How that boy loved vehicles of all kinds.